By Brian D. Cosgrove

I was about six years of age when my father went on the most adventurous holiday he ever undertook: he sailed on the Cunard ocean liner, the Queen Elizabeth. Launched in 1938, the liner was named, not after the late Elizabeth II, but in fact after the Queen Consort of George VI, later known and beloved as ‘the Queen Mother’.

Thereafter the Queen Elizabeth’s maiden voyage was postponed for some eight years, delayed, I assume, by the outbreak of World War II, until 1946. My father’s own embarkation was one year after that, in 1947. He may not have been as impressed by the onboard experience as much as he expected, and later expressed some misgivings.

Nonetheless, it must have been quite an adventure for someone born in the closing years of the nineteenth century, who had grown up on a small farm in a rural area of County Armagh.

While I have described it as ‘his most adventurous holiday’, it was almost the only holiday of any significance he ever had. He had begun in the bar business as an apprentice at the age of fourteen, worked hard all his life, and at that time, well into his fifties, presided over his own bar for six days a week, working from ten in the morning to ten (and sometimes later) at night.

He employed a barman, so he was able to find time (though not a lot of it) to grab his midday dinner and evening tea during the working day. His only real hobby was backing horses, and in my recollection that gambling culture was absolutely central to the entire pub routine. Our bar even had its own resident ‘bookie’s runner’ who would place your bet for you.

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